Roero may be Piedmont's best-kept secret. For years, famous houses in Barolo purchased grapes from growers in this scenic and dramatic region. The sandier soils give more softness and open structures to the Nebbiolo wines from the Roero, allowing them to be enjoyed earlier in their development than their cousins from Barolo and Barbaresco. They can also age seven to 15 years, especially from a very good year.
My appointment there was with Malvirà, a property founded in the 1950s by Giuseppe Damonte and managed today by his sons, Massimo, the vineyard manager, and Roberto, the winemaker.
As you climb up out of Barolo toward La Morra, reaching the intersection that bisects La Morra and Vergne, there is an amphitheater of vines on the left. This is Bricco delle Viole. These are some of the highest vineyards in the Barolo commune, at 1,300 to nearly 1,600 feet in elevation, but very well-exposed to the south. As a result, the wines have fragrance and finesse.
The G.D. Vajra vineyards come from Aldo Vaira's grandparents, so some of the oldest vines date back to the 1950s. Vaira himself began working in the vineyards in the early 1970s and today farms 99 acres in Barolo and also owns the Luigi Baudana vineyards, which comprise an additional 11 acres in Serralunga d'Alba.
It doesn't get more traditional than the Barolos of Giuseppe Rinaldi. Tasting in the cellars of this 16-acre estate, I felt like time had stood still. Rinaldi even continues the practice of blending different vineyards for his Barolos, combining two vineyard sites rather than bottling each cru separately.
After a surprise appearance on Monday, the sun continued to play hard to get. As I drove from La Morra to Serralunga d'Alba, the vineyards were shrouded in fog. My first stop was at Massolino, an estate I looked forward to visiting because I have some bottles in my cellar. The azienda agricola was founded by Giovanni Massolino in 1896.
After tasting the 2008s and 2009s from barrel, Franco Massolino and I tasted verticals of three single-vineyard Barolos dating back to 1982.
It was fitting that I started my visits in La Morra, where I am staying. The morning dawned with rain, but by the time I finished breakfast the sky was breaking and I could see the Alps from my room for the first time since I arrived. I'm visiting 20 or so Piedmont producers while I'm here, casting the net a little wider than the Barolo and Barbaresco DOCGs, to Gavi, Roero, Dogliani and Asti. Today's appointments were with Renato Ratti, Oddero and Pio Cesare.
I'm back in La Morra and in the clouds. Literally.
Bruno Viberti, the gracious owner of the Corte Gondina hotel where I am staying, told me it wasn't fog, but low clouds. La Morra is at nearly 1,700 feet in elevation, in the foothills of the Alps. On this trip, I will visit 20 or so producers, casting the net a little wider than the Barolo and Barbaresco DOCGs, to Gavi, Roero, Dogliani and Asti.